Nothing says “I love you” like a dozen roses. Except, perhaps, a dozen roses stamped with the words “I love you.” That’s the theory behind Speaking Roses, anyway, a Utah based firm that patented a process of printing words, pictures and logos onto roses, tulips, lilies or any other flower with a square inch of petal space. The idea merges the flower and greeting card industries. They’re all the rage in Hollywood. Tom Cruise melted the hearts of millions when he gave out 225 Speaking Roses bouquets to an audience of single mothers on the Ellen DeGeneres show. Steve Martin, Donald Trump and Janet Jackson are all buyers, and the inscribed flowers have been featured at the Kentucky Derby, the Oscars and the Rose Bowl.
The customizable flowers are marketed for all occasions. Amorous lovers snatch them up for Valentine’s Day or weddings, and dutiful children pay $50-$80 per dozen to spell out their maternal love on Mother’s Day. Meanwhile, businesses from Coca-Cola to Harley Davidson pay to see their logos printed on fresh flowers—a novel promotional gift. The idea caught the attention of Rajeshwar Thota, a pharmaceutical scientist who earned his MBA from Xavier in 2009, and he wanted to start a business. Thota and his wife spent months searching for the right idea until they found the Speaking Roses website. Together the couple established the Ohio franchise of Speaking Roses, which they run out of their home using a secret four-step printing process that involves a computer, a laser and ultra-violet rays. “Flowers have two enemies,” Thota says. “One is pressure. The other is heat. Those two are avoided in this technology.”
Every day brings lessons in small-business operation. “I’m really using my MBA knowledge,” he says. For now Thota is keeping his overhead low and building his customer base. Fortunately for him, the flowers speak for themselves. “People love it,” he says. “Whoever sees the product, they just say ‘Wow, what a great idea.’ ” Plenty of men already know that where words fail, flowers may succeed. Now they can finally hedge their bets with both.